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Beautiful food in a postage stamp-size garden? You can do that!

Arrange tomatoes, lettuces, marigolds and other plants to showcase their textural and colorful beauty while making good use of space.  ©NCAImages/iStockphoto

Arrange tomatoes, lettuces, marigolds and other plants to showcase their textural and colorful beauty while making good use of space. ©NCAImages/iStockphoto

In the last 10 days, I’ve received two books with the same theme: food gardening.

It’s no surprise to garden centers, mail order and online retailers and, apparently publishers, that gardeners, whether they call themselves that or not, are into growing their own food.

Some people may not call themselves gardeners because they only grow a pot of tomatoes on the patio or lettuces in a window box, but they are, just like those who grow food in large, in-ground beds.

In the most recent Garden Trends Research Report, 58 percent of consumers said they plan to grow edible plants in 2015. About 25 percent said they will grow them in the ground, 10 percent said they will grow them in containers and 24 percent will use both methods, according to the October 2014 survey conducted by the Garden Writers Association Foundation.

growing beautiful food cover amazonOne of the most lush and inviting books to cross my desk recently is Growing Beautiful Food: A Gardener’s Guide to Cultivating Extraordinary Vegetables and Fruit written and photographed by Matthew Benson (Rodale, $32.50, hardcover).

An organic farmer in the Hudson River Valley of New York, Benson finds beauty in contorted carrots, purple-flecked green beans, the irregular shapes of heirloom tomatoes, well-pruned apple trees and the shades and textures of green. “Creating a great salad is usually a symphonic act, with texture, color, form and taste all playing their parts,” he wrote.

With a poetic, essay style, Benson takes readers through four season of growth, not just vegetables and fruits, but chicken- and beekeeping, too. He discusses composting, soil and the weather in the front of the book. In the back, he gives growing and harvesting tips and a few recipes.

postage stamp size garden cover1418670114For those of us in a more urban setting comes the completely revised The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden: Grow Tons of Organic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers by Karen Newcomb (Ten Speed Press, $18.99, paperback).

Newcomb promotes a holistic, intensive-style to gardening, giving tips on planting by the growing season, the color of plants, by the USDA Hardiness Zone Map or the moon. Like all good gardeners, Newcomb starts with building the soil. Good soil yields healthy plants and good produce. After the soil is prepped, a 5-by-5 foot bed will produce 200 pounds of vegetables.

The methods involve inter- and under planting, planting close together, succession planting and vertical gardening. No pretty pictures in this book, but lots of great advice and techniques.

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